WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama and Mitt Romney circling one another like prizefighters. Joe Biden chatting up a biker chick. Clint Eastwood conversing with an empty chair.
Campaign 2012 is rich with images that conjure the seriousness and silliness that unfold side by side in any presidential race.
Will any of these images endure? Probably not. But why not take one last look back before Campaign 2012 is consigned to history?
Ten to consider:
The debates offered viewers a collage of images that traced the rhetorical highs and lows. Think of Obama's downcast eyes and pursed lips during the Romney smackdown that was the first debate.
Or the two candidates invading each other's space in their town-hall encounter.
"I thought it was a real moment," Biden said later. "When they were kind of circling each other, it was like, hey, come on, man, let's level with each other here."
Biden's debate with Paul Ryan had its own moments. The vice president deployed Joker-like smirks, eye rolls and head shakes to convey incredulity at what his Republican rival had to say.
"I think Biden prepared by shotgunning Red Bull and watching Yosemite Sam cartoons," Seth Myers later deadpanned on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
Even Biden had rave reviews when "SNL" rolled out a skit spoofing his performance.
"I laughed my head off," he said.
Nobody was laughing when an amateur video surfaced in September in which Romney seemed to dismiss 47 percent of Americans during remarks at a closed-door fundraiser earlier in the campaign. The fact that the video was surreptitiously recorded from the back of the room made it all the more juicy.
Just for the record, here's exactly what Romney said:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right? There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. .... These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of lower taxes doesn't connect. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years.
"And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Romney later labeled his remarks "inelegant," and after that said his comments were "just completely wrong." Ryan chimed in to say Romney had been "obviously inarticulate."
Sad to say, Eastwood's rambling conversation with an empty chair representing Obama during the GOP convention may well be the single most memorable moment of the 2012 presidential campaign. And the only candidate in that tableau was invisible.
Eastwood, 82, said he grabbed the chair on a lark.
"There was a stool there, and some fella kept asking me if I wanted to sit down," Eastwood said later. "When I saw the stool sitting there, it gave me the idea. I'll just put the stool out there and I'll talk to Mr. Obama and ask him why he didn't keep all of the promises he made to everybody."
ALL GROWN UP
Aww, who didn't smile and do a double-take when Malia and Sasha Obama walked on stage at the Democratic convention to join their mom and dad after the president's speech? The girls looked so much more poised and mature than when they stood on the convention stage four years earlier.
At 14 and 11, respectively, Malia and Sasha are in a whole new world now. Malia's in high school. Sasha's the one who taught her mom how to use the DVR.
It's not everyone who gets to hoist a president like a sack of potatoes. Pizza man Scott Van Duzer sent the president airborne with a giant bear hug when Obama stopped by his restaurant in Fort Pierce, Fla., this fall. Van Duzer, a Republican who says he's voting for Obama, was rewarded with a seat near Michelle Obama during the final presidential debate, and he introduced Obama during a campaign rally last week in Delray Beach, Fla.
"Every time I need a pick-me-up, I try to see Scott," Obama declared.
Remember all the talk about Romney putting Seamus the dog in a crate on top of the car for a family trip to Canada years ago?
Romney's fans thought it was a fun way to humanize the button-down corporate candidate. A lot of dog lovers were not amused.
And the revelation that the dog developed internal issues that required both the car and dog to be hosed off created a visual image that is best forgotten quickly.
Let's be clear: The biker chick in the bandana and leather vest is NOT sitting in Biden's lap. But it sure looks like it. The vice president plunked himself down with some bikers in a diner in Seaman, Ohio, this fall, and leaned in close behind one woman, grabbing on to her shoulders as they posed for photos. That's Joe.
BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN
The binders are long gone, but Mitt Romney's awkward phrase is likely to endure at least a little longer.
The GOP nominee was trying to convey his commitment to hiring women when he spoke during one of the debates about demanding more potential job applicants when he was Massachusetts governor. "They brought us whole binders full of women," Romney enthused. And a meme was born.
Who could have predicted that a superstorm would overshadow and scramble the presidential campaign in its final days? Obama and Romney revised and re-revised their campaign schedules as Hurricane Sandy, a most unlikely October surprise, barreled up the East Coast and then roared ashore in New Jersey. The storm's devastation required the candidates to recalibrate both in tone and strategy. And both sides had to figure out how to capitalize politically — without looking like they were trying to capitalize politically.